Trainer Bill Mott said Live Oak Plantation's To Honor and Serve, winner of the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) in his last start, would be entered Sept. 26 for the Sept. 29 $400,000 Kelso Handicap (gr. II) at a mile at Belmont Park and likely would use that race as a prep for the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).
The Kelso will serve as a rematch between To Honor and Serve and his Met Mile (gr. I) conqueror Shackleford . To Honor and Serve, who had captured last year's Cigar Mile (gr. I), finished third in the Met Mile as the 8-5 favorite.
"To Honor and Serve has been training very well and we plan on entering in the Kelso," Mott said. "I was wondering if coming back in four weeks (from the Woodward) was too much for him, but I've taken the option to enter and plan to run. Then it's five weeks to the Breeders' Cup Classis. The connections would like to give that a chance."
Mott had high expectations for To Honor and Serve at the beginning of the year, especially after the colt came back to easily win the Westchester Stakes in his first start of the year. But that was followed by defeats in the Met Mile and Suburban Handicap (gr. II).
"When he won so easily first time out I thought he couldn't be doing better going into Met Mile," Mott said. "He didn't run a bad race. On the turn, he was unable to run when he needed to run to to be competitive. In the Suburban, it was 97 degrees and the heat really affected him and he ran a lackluster race. Because of that, we decided to skip the Whitney and give extra time until Labor Day weekend when he won the Woodward. He's bounced back well off that race and has been doing better in the cooler weather. He's put on a little weight the last 10 days and is eating better.
"It was either run in the Kelso or go nine weeks to the Breeders' Cup. If we had done that, I would have had to give him some serious works. It's a balancing act between doing too much or not enough."
A $575,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase, To Honor and Serve is owned by Live Oak Plantation. By Bernardini , he was bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks Farm, Larry Byer, and Rancho San Miguel.